ESMC, US Cotton Trust Protocol, Manulife Investment Management, and Forum for the Future Launch Project for Southern Cotton Farmers to Participate in Ecosystem Services Markets
December 14, 2022
The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), US Cotton Trust Protocol, Manulife Investment Management, and Forum for the Future announce the launch of an Eco-Harvest pilot project in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. This project will work with cotton farmers to generate high quality carbon and greenhouse gas credits on over 2,300 acres. Cotton producers targeted for enrollment include those implementing conservation practices such as nutrient management, reduced tillage, and cover crops. Once producers are enrolled in ESMC’s Eco-Harvest program, ESMC quantifies credits and arranges third party credit verification by a global certification body, SustainCERT. Corporate buyers can purchase these verified credits to help meet their supply chain sustainability targets.
The project will apply ESMC’s Eco-Harvest streamlined programming to support cotton farmers’ transition to regenerative agriculture using financing provided by the Cotton Foundation. US Cotton Trust Protocol (US CTP) and Manulife Investment Management are working separately as enrollment specialists helping their network of cotton producers through ESMC eligibility requirements, sign up, and crop data entry into the Eco-Harvest Digital Platform.
Participating farmers, who may be new to private voluntary ecosystem markets linked to conservation practice adoption, will develop knowledge on and the ability to participate in markets. ESMC capacity building will allow for continued expansion for cotton growers to participate in ESMC’s Eco-Harvest program. In the future, this project plans to enroll Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers to ensure ESMC’s program builds capacity to enroll producers who may encounter barriers to participation in agricultural carbon markets.
“We are excited about Eco-Harvest program expansion into new regions and new crops like cotton,” ESMC’s Executive Director Debbie Reed said. “With collaborators US Cotton Trust Protocol, Cotton Incorporated, Manulife Investment Management, and Forum for the Future, we can ensure this program works first and foremost for the agricultural producers, and ensure they are rewarded for the value and the outcomes of their work adopting conservation practices. We will quantify improved outcomes in our science-based, standards-based Eco-Harvest program, sell the credits to corporate buyers, and pay producers. This pilot will expand our program to producers that have been traditionally left out of agricultural market programs and other opportunities.”
Sandra Seru, Managing Director for Forum for the Future Americas, said: “Forum for the Future sees this pilot as an exciting opportunity to work with partners, ESMC, Manulife Investment Management and USCTP to understand how ecosystem service markets can support the transition to just and regenerative agriculture systems by helping to de-risk the transition for growers. ESMC brings a robust monitoring, reporting, and verification system to enable farm communities to financially benefit from the positive climate, water, and biodiversity benefits they deliver, while USCTP has built an incredible network of trusted relationships with growers and technical expertise on regenerative cotton systems. Manulife Investment Management’s participation enabled this pilot to be deployed across significant acreage to ensure the pilot delivers meaningful results. In addition to supporting conventional growers, this pilot will diagnose and design solutions to address barriers to participation for BIPOC farm communities and smaller farmers. We’ll be paying attention to challenging trade-offs and consider how ecosystem services need to sit alongside other financial tools to ensure a transition to regenerative agriculture that allows farm communities to mitigate risk and thrive long-term.”
Brandon Lewis, Director, Sustainability, at Manulife Investment Management, said, “Implementation of sustainable agriculture practices, including cover cropping, carries significant upfront costs that can be prohibitive for our tenants. We seek to support them in the transition by providing training, information, and financial support through the generation of soil carbon credits. We’re excited to be partnering with ESMC and Forum for the Future – organizations also dedicated to the development of ecosystem marketplaces – to support large scale transition to regenerative agriculture.”
About Ecosystem Services Market Consortium
ESMC/ESMRC is a non-profit public private partnership that is transforming decarbonization along the agricultural supply chain through collective action. Our 70+ member organizations spanning the agricultural supply and value chains have collaboratively invested, tested, and launched a harmonized, standardized ecosystem services market for agricultural supply chains. Eco-Harvest, ESMC’s voluntary market program, is an accredited end-to-end digitized solution to decarbonize agriculture and to meet additional natural resource needs of corporates who are making significant investments and operational changes to achieve standards-based, reportable outcomes documenting their progress annually. The program incentivizes, quantifies and verifies (through independent third-party experts) carbon, greenhouse gas and water outcomes annually, paying farmers from the sale of scope 3 outcomes (credits) to corporates. www.ecosystemservicesmarket.org
About US Cotton Trust Protocol
In a period of ever greater supply chain scrutiny and a growing demand for transparency, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® sets a new standard for more sustainably grown cotton. Aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the Trust Protocol brings quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to more sustainable cotton production and drives continuous improvement in six key sustainability metrics – land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency. Find out more at https://trustuscotton.org.
About Cotton Incorporated
Cotton Incorporated is the research and promotion company for Upland cotton. Funded by U.S. cotton growers and importers of Upland cotton-containing products, the not-for-profit organization’s mission is to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton. As a resource for the cotton industry, Cotton Incorporated conducts or oversees over 450 research and educational projects in an average year. Research areas range from the development of agricultural and textile innovations to analyses of commodity and market data. To learn more, visit https://www.cottoninc.com.
About Forum for the Future
Forum for the Future is a leading international sustainability non-profit. For more than 25 years, Forum has been working in partnership with business, governments and civil society to accelerate the shift towards a just and regenerative future in which both people and the planet thrive. As environmental, social and economic crises intensify, the world is rapidly changing, with multiple transitions already reshaping how people live and work. Forum is focused on enabling deep transformation in three game-changing areas: the production and consumption of food; energy production; and the role and impact of business in society. The organization works with ambitious and diverse change-makers to shift how they feel, think, act and collaborate to drive systemic change for sustainability.
Forum for the Future also leads Growing our Future – a unique collaboration that is bringing together representatives from over 135 organizations across the US agriculture system (including farmers, BIPOC communities, agribusinesses, food service, food retailers, manufacturers and investors) to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture, with focus areas on policy change, financing and innovating new pathways to market. Find out more at www.forumforthefuture.org.
About Manulife Investment Management
Manulife Investment Management is the global brand for the global wealth and asset management segment of Manulife Financial Corporation. We draw on more than a century of financial stewardship and the full resources of our parent company to serve individuals, institutions, and retirement plan members worldwide. Headquartered in Toronto, our leading capabilities in public and private markets are strengthened by an investment footprint that spans 19 geographies. We complement these capabilities by providing access to a network of unaffiliated asset managers from around the world. We’re committed to investing responsibly across our businesses. We develop innovative global frameworks for sustainable investing, collaboratively engage with companies in our securities portfolios, and maintain a high standard of stewardship where we own and operate assets, and we believe in supporting financial well-being through our workplace retirement plans. Today, plan sponsors around the world rely on our retirement plan administration and investment expertise to help their employees plan for, save for, and live a better retirement. Not all offerings are available in all jurisdictions. For additional information, please visit www.manulifeim.com.